Two stalwarts of the outdoor industry have drawn a line in the sand with the world’s largest social network. Both The North Face, Patagonia, and REI have elected to pull their advertising dollars from Facebook over the continued spread of misinformation, racists viewpoints, troubling conspiracy theories, and “hateful lies.” All three companies, which are obviously prominent in the outdoor space, voiced their concerns with how the social platform has handled a wide variety of topics in recent weeks, including the COVID-19 virus, increasing racial tensions, and a slew of other hot button issues.
In all cases, the companies involved int his boycott—which includes freelancing network Upwork as well—have indicated that they are pausing their ads for now, but will reevaluate the situation in the near future. Each has expressed that they would like to see some form of meaningful change from the Facebook policies, which have been under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. The platform has long been tolerant of radical viewpoints on both the left and right and used the guise of free speech as a defense of why it allows controversial topics, hate speech, and outright false information to be spread amongst its users.
The social network drew sharp criticism a few weeks back when it declined to censor, remove, or flag a series of posts from U.S. President Donald Trump. Those posts, which involved false statements about voter fraud, were flagged for containing false information on Twitter, indicating to readers that they should be cautious when it comes believing what was said. Naturally, this drew the ire of Trump, who threatened action against the social networks for suppressing conservative posters. Facebook has allowed those posts to remain on its platform, although it did remove similar posts from the president last week that also included false information.
The question now is, whether or not this boycott will continue to pick up steam. My sense is that this is only the beginning when it comes to sending a message to Facebook and affect change. If we’ve learned anything about company CEO Mark Zuckerberg in recent years, it’s that he is ruthless when it comes to making money. If more companies start to pull their ads and eat into revenue—which topped $70 billion last year—we might actually see the website start to take things more seriously.
I applaud all of these companies for taking a stand against Facebook, which is a massively powerful tech juggernaut. The website has been at an increasing number of serious controversies over the past few years and it feels like very little has changed. While it is true that it is a handy platform for communicating with friends and family, it is also a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Hopefully, by hitting Facebook in the wallet, we can finally begin to see some move towards making it a better place.